• IRB
  • IRB

Drosophila melanogaster: a model to study human disease

The Project

Although it is largely unknown by the general public, researchers have been working with the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) for over a hundred years as a means to model and study human disease. Would you like to find out how this is achieved? Do you want to discover what flies are used for and how to work with them? If so, join us! We will use this model to study the main mechanisms underlying neurodegenerative diseases.

During this project, we aim to mimic the long process from basic research to clinical application of the knowledge gained. First, we will learn about the many tools researchers can use to study the putative genes involved in neurodegenerative diseases. Second, we will hypothesize, based on the published literature, on the genes and processes implicated. And finally, we will propose a working model and search for a way to decrease the phenotypes of these disorders.

We will learn about the history of the fruit fly and its biology. We will also learn how to handle the flies and about the many genetic tools that can be used in this organism. Then we will search for information about the neurodegenerative diseases that we wish to study and the genes involved. We will learn about databases for scientific publications and also repositories that store information about Drosophila melanogaster.

We will take advantage of established Drosophila melanogaster transgenic flies that express disease-related genes. Using a well-established genetic tool, we will be able to express these genes in specific neuronal populations in order to study their effects. To examine the phenotypes shown by the diseased flies and to compare them with that of healthy flies, we will use various techniques such as immunostaining and locomotor activity tests. In order to visualize our immunostainings, we will learn the basics of confocal microscopy and we will use cutting-edge confocal microscopes. As a last step of any research we will learn how to analyze the data obtained and to perform statistical analysis in order to draw conclusions.

On the basis of the data obtained and found in the literature, we will hypothesize about strategies to decrease or abolish the disease phenotypes and we will perform rescue experiments in order to test our hypotheses. The conclusions obtained from these kind of basic research studies provide the grounds for a later application to humans, to the ultimate benefit of society.

Matching profiles

Biology, genetics, medicine, biomedicine

Required materials

Lab coat, laptop

Coordinator of the project
Celia Santos

Celia Santos

Celia Santos graduated in Biology from at the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM) and studied a Master's in Genetics and Cell Biology at the same center. While at the UAM, she workded in José Fernández Piqueras' lab (Centro de Biología Molecular Severo Ochoa) addressing non-coding (miRNAs) loci underlying genetic susceptibility to T-Lymphoblastic lymphoma. She is currently doing her PhD in Genetics in Marco Milan's lab at IRB Barcelona, studying the role of microRNA machinery in growth regulation in Drosophila melanogaster. She has participated in various science and research activities with young students at IRB Barcelona and in secondary schools and has been involved in workshops for the general public.

The center

The Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) is a public institution engaged in basic and applied research at the unique interface between molecular and cell biology, computational and structural biology and chemistry, with experts in proteomics, genomics, biostatistics and advanced digital microscopy.